Are Men from Mars and Women from Venus?

by | May 27, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 99 comments

Does the Church Stress Gender Differences Too Much?

Are we overblowing gender differences? Are men from Mars and women from Venus?

It’s Keith on the blog today for our men’s corner!

It seems you can’t go to a marriage conference, or read a book on marriage or even have a conversation about relationships without at some point the issue coming up about how different we are.

“Oh, he’s a man; that’s just the way they are.” 

“Well, brother, you know women!” (Which actually means we feel we don’t know ANYTHING about women).

It’s one of those things we tend to take for granted.  Sheila & I are not immune, either.  When we speak at marriage conferences, we often talk about the issue of gender differences.  As a speaker, you want the participants to enjoy themselves and gender differences is just such a ripe area for humour.  There’s just too much low hanging fruit to resist.  And it is a good way to get people to relax and to lighten the mood if we can talk a bit about some of the funny ways that we see the world differently.

I do think there are differences between men and women.  I also think that it is okay to acknowledge and talk about that in the same way that we talk about other differences such as our families of origin or even our basic personality. In a healthy relationship we recognize that we are not always going to see the world exactly the same way and that is normal. But I think we can get into trouble when we place too much emphasis on these differences–and especially if we start getting prescriptive about them.


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Like most people, when Sheila & I were dating and getting to know each other, our differences were the main things that attracted us to each other.

When Sheila and I got married, however, sometimes those differences grated and caused tension.

I think this is a fairly common experience.  When you are single, you can organize your world the way you want. You get used to things being a certain way. Your life experience, your personality, your gender and hundreds of other factors make you who you are and make you see the world the way you do.  It is only natural to assume that your way of understanding how the world works is the CORRECT way to see how the world works.

Now the amazing thing about getting married is all of a sudden there is a person – whom you love so much – who sees the world in many ways very differently than you do. And the first couple of years of marriage can be a real shock as you process how someone so amazing could be so wrong about so many things. (What kind of trauma did you go through that made you think the toilet paper roll folds under instead of over?)

Healthy people in healthy marriages recognize that they are products of all these influences – background, gender, etcetera – and realize that other people with different experiences will have different ways of understanding the same situation.  They learn to sort out what truly are character or moral issues from issues that are just differences of perspective and they treat those two things very differently. Much of the first year or so of marriage is sorting all that out and learning to recognize that when your spouse is “wrong” about how the toilet paper goes on the roller it is a very different thing than when they say something hurtful or do something selfish (as we all do at one time or another).

But I worry in the Church that we have drifted a bit past the mark when it comes to gender differences.  Saying “let’s recognize that God made us different and appreciate that in each other” is something I would fully endorse.  However, too often I hear it framed in terms of “men are like this and woman are like that” and I find that very problematic for several reasons.

First of all, the differences within the genders is often greater that the difference between the genders.

Take something easily measurable like height.  The average woman in the United States is 5’3½” and the average man is 5’9”. So to say that men are taller than women is true – five and a half inches on average to be precise.  But to say that means that all men are taller than all women is clearly not true. In fact, the normal range for height in women is considered 4’11” to 5’8” and for men it’s 5’5” to 6’2”. In both cases, the difference within the gender is nine inches, quite a bit more than the 5.5 inches between them.

The reason this is so important is that there are always exceptions to general trends and these exceptions are normal and to be expected. 

As another example, take watching (or otherwise following) sports.  Men tend to like sports more than women, but there will be some men who have no interest in sports whatsoever and some women who remind us that sports fan is short for sports fanatic.  These people are not wrong for being the way they are.  God is very creative and everything he makes comes in so many different shapes, sizes & variations, humans included. But so often with gender differences we slip past the concept that “men/women tend to be” into the territory of “men/ women always are” without even realizing it.  And when we do that, we risk making our brothers and sisters who are those exceptions feel like they are somehow broken or defective.

I remember after one marriage conference a couple came up to Sheila and me afterwards and were so appreciative that when we talked about libido differences we mentioned that in many cases the woman has the higher libido in the relationship. This woman had never even heard that was a possibility and so despite being in a fairly common situation, she had lived for years feeling there was something wrong with her and perhaps even shamefully so. That is an unnecessary and avoidable tragedy.

So when we talk about gender differences I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to acknowledge some people are the exceptions –and that’s okay.  Because they matter, too.

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The other thing that concerns me is just how extreme people get about emphasizing the differences between the genders.

When I listen to some people talk, it sounds like men & women are two different species entirely.  (Silly me! I thought we were two versions of human.)  Even the wording that men are from Mars and women are from Venus bothers me a little bit. Yes, we are different from each other, but we are not aliens from another planet!  Appreciating gender differences should draw us closer together, not push us apart.  Understanding that the way my spouse processes things is not wrong, but in fact is actually similar to a lot of other people can be very helpful in a relationship.

But often what I hear makes it sound like men and women are so different that they will never understand each other.

To me that just sounds defeatist. I know I will never full understand the world from my wife’s perspective in the same way that I could never understand it fully from one of my male friend’s perspective – simply because I am not them!  I can only imagine what it’s like. But to me, that’s the whole point- –  trying to imagine what life is like from their perspective.  In marriage, trying to see things from your spouse’s perspective is such a powerful force for good.  To suggest the differences between men and women are so great that we can never understand each other, however, suggests that there is no point in even trying.  And giving up on understanding each other is never going to make any marriage grow stronger.

But in some circles in the church we go even farther than that.  We actually try as much as possible to accentuate the differences in gender!

Not satisfied with moving from “men/women tend to be” into “men/women always are” we go flying right past that into “God has ordained that men/women shall be”. We give very prescribed definitions of how a man should look, think & act and how a woman should look, think & act if they want to be “biblical”.  And if people don’t measure up, the clear implication is that there is something wrong with them. Typical of this mindset is this quote from the Wikipedia page on Mark Driscoll where he laments that the problem in the church today is that “sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”

Frankly, the whole thing drives me crazy on so many levels.

First off, the blatant sexism inherent in this way of speaking – that women are not just different from men, but actually inferior – I find completely nauseating.

Secondly, I quite simply have no time for people who want to tell me what kind of man I am supposed to be.  I am quite confident in who I am. And I am not going to lose any sleep over whether someone the likes of Mark Driscoll thinks I am “chick-ified” or not.

But what really saddens me is that we seem to miss how completely misplaced this whole concept is! It takes us in the exact opposite direction of where we want to go. We all want a marriage where we grow closer together over the years, more and more in tune with each other over time.  But how are you possibly going to get there if you invest all your time and energy trying to be as different from each other as possible?  It’s insane! The Bible encourages us, both men and women, to be more like Jesus, not to be more like the ideal man or the ideal woman.

Wouldn’t it be healthier if we made it less about trying to be a godly husband or a godly wife and more about just trying to be godly?

So yes, we should value and appreciate the differences we see in each other including differences based on gender. But let’s agree they are just one part of who we are and they are certainly not insurmountable obstacles to a healthy relationship. And, please, instead of trying to cram people into molds their Creator never meant for them, let’s focus on appreciating our spouse for who He actually made them to be.

What do you think? Are gender differences the biggest difference you face, or is it personality, or backgrounds, or emotional needs? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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99 Comments

  1. Pamela

    Agree 100%! (And thank you for calling out Mark Driscoll.)
    This post reminded me of something I recently read by Aimee Byrd. She notes that even our choice of language is problematic… We could say “other” sex, but instead we always say “opposite” sex, making it seem like they are so vastly different from us, when the reality is that in most ways we are very similar.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Isn’t that interesting? I haven’t read Aimee’s new book yet, but I have read excerpts. What she says about the problems with men’s Bibles and women’s Bibles is just so depressing. But I’m glad she’s highlighting the problem! Hopefully publishers will listen, and women will become more discerning consumers.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      What is the difference between “men’s” and “women’s” Bibles? If they’re changing the words in the Bibles depending on the audience, then someone isn’t getting the true Word. Maybe neither is.
      If the difference is in commentary that’s included, I still don’t get why men and women should get different ones.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        It’s all the devotionals that come with the Bibles. The men’s are focused on being strong or on theology, and the women’s are focused on supporting your husband and are really super creepy in some cases.

        Reply
      • Anon

        I’ve seen a few ‘Women’s Bibles’ and the chief difference seems to be that they have pretty pastel covers – sometimes with flower pictures on them! Because obviously, we women are far too delicate and sensitive to be able to cope with reading a Bible that has a black or brown cover.
        They also tend to have some rather ‘twee’ devotionals, focusing on women in the Bible, as if women can only learn from women. I am not a fan. Having said that, if it encourages someone to read the Bible who otherwise wouldn’t bother…

        Reply
  2. Joy

    Thank you!! I remember watching the love and respect videos and thinking this is is messed up. My husband and I are switched on a lot of the typical male female emotional roles. And we are ok with that!! But being told by every marriage book that he is supposed to react like such and such and I am supposed to act like a “chick” is wearing. So we don’t read marriage books anymore. Except yours. 🙂

    Reply
    • Dani

      Same in our marriage. There are many ways my husband is stereotypically more feminine emotionally and I am more stereotypically masculine. I don’t have a problem with stereotypes per se but people seem to have issues saying this is generally true but not always and the not always is normal too! One of our sons has a similar personality to his Dad and at 10 has already struggled with not fitting in with the way the boys around him are and it’s so great for my husband to be able to reassure him, “you are a lot like me and there is nothing wrong with the way I am, Is there??”

      Reply
  3. Sarah O

    Thank you Keith! Totally agree! If we all have the same goal (Christ-likeness), we should be growing more and more alike, regardless of gender, background, etc.
    I find that whenever a group or person makes a stark focus on gender, it almost always leads to a denigration of women. No one would lament the church getting too “dude-ified”, or talk about how much they miss the feminine influences if the demographics reversed.
    The gender focus also seems to bleed outward onto the genderless, which makes us sound hokey, superstitious and irrational. Colors do not have a gender. Most hobbies, activites, and chores do not have a gender and do not involve gender in their performance. Yet we have this whole litany of gender-alignment for everything under the sun.
    Could we as the church talk about SOMETHING ELSE for FIVE MINUTES??

    Reply
  4. Melissa

    So I’m 5’10” and my husband is 6’7”, so we already don’t conform to the “average”. 😜 In a way our height is kind of a representation of how we don’t fit into any mold. Karate taught us that. Our Sensei is constantly reminding us to use our entire reach, to take up space, to extend. As taller than average people we are constantly trying to fit into spaces that were not designed for us. The idea of using our ENTIRE range of motion was completely foreign! In a similar way, we don’t “fit” into the molds we grew up believing were the “right” way to be for our genders. When we let go of all that life became a lot more fun! Isn’t it amazing how God designed us to be so complex? He’s a creative God.

    Reply
    • Arwen

      Melissa, I’m also not average. I’m 4’11” and weigh 95 lbs. I have yet to meet a women in real life who’s the same height as me. I see them in media and social media a lot but not in real life. I’m surrounded by women who are taller than me, even if it’s 1 inch. But my childhood best friend is also 5’10”.

      Reply
      • Cynthia

        My daughter, sister and 2 sisters-in-law would make you fit right in! They are all 4’11”. We are not a tall family.

        Reply
  5. Lin

    Right on, Keith! I totally agree. I remember some years ago I was at a bridal shower that included, shall we say, an extremely traditional sermon to the bride on “what men want” and “how to please your man” (emphasis on man). The bride was a very sweet and conscientious woman, and a long and shaming sermon on what men want was the last thing she needed. When I had a chance to talk to her, I reminded her that she wasn’t marrying “A MAN,” but rather her fiance, who was an individual, and he wasn’t marrying “A WOMAN,” but rather her, an individual, so she should think less about living and communicating with a mythical “man” and more about living and communicating with her actual fiance. She looked so relieved and surprised, like no one had ever said that before, and it made me so very sad.
    I wish I could have given her this article. I don’t understand the weird emphasis in some circles on the differences between men and women. We’re all human. We’re pretty darn similar, and we have the same goal, to be like Christ (if we’re Christians).
    (Also, I’ve heard a lot of gross stuff about Driscoll but I think that quote rockets right up into first place. Y-i-k-e-s.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, no. The penis home quote by Driscoll definitely takes the cake. :)!
      Thanks, Lin. I’m glad you told your friend that, too. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We’re all individuals, and that’s what matters.

      Reply
      • Lin

        Oh that’s true… the penis home comment is worse. I gotta admit though, “worst Driscoll quote” is a pretty competitive field!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Haha! You kind of have to laugh or else we’d all realize how sad it is and then we’d cry. 🙁

          Reply
      • Mollie

        Amen! Sorry – awoman!
        You know what I mean – you hit the nail on the head!

        Reply
  6. Bethany#2

    Yeah when I first got married it took a few weeks to break the glass image of the mythical husband! It was very strange to discover, like me, he doesn’t always want/need sex every single day! Read enough marriage books and that the image of a “perfect marriage”. The myth of happiness surrounding “never refuse him sex”.
    I’d say that the number 1 way we as a couple are politically incorrect is that, after sex I pass out and he gains insomnia! Nobody ever mentioned that as an option, and at first I worried about who or what was broken. But now I just love us, how we are!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s awesome, Bethany! (And I’m sorry about your husband having insomnia! Some of us do react differently to hormonal surges. It may be worth him talking to his doctor about it, though, because it may be tied into a higher risk of depression or some other things. Not necessarily of course, but just usually if we react the opposite way to dopamine and other hormonal surges, it may be useful to be aware of that).

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        OMG…I get hyped up after sex… Thought women were supposed to pass out afterwards, lol.

        Reply
  7. Anonymous

    We could not agree with this perspective more. I can be explained a lot better by my family background of totalitarian religious abuse and brainwashing, ADHD, generalized anxiety, complex trauma, and legalistic cultural bubble than by my gender. The same could be said for my partner’s permissive upbringing by passive parents, high-functioning autism, social anxiety, and various significant influences. The plain reality that we experienced is that every biblical injunction re: gender that we believed and tried to enforce during the first two dozen years of our marriage made it more toxic. It wasn’t until we let go of that way of thinking and learned to understand each other through research-based evidence (such as found on this blog) and to respect each other for who we actually are as human beings that we began to heal and thrive. Within a couple of years, our marriage has become unrecognizable, in a very good way. One thing that seriously troubles us is how some Christians are now appropriating scientific evidence-based knowledge about gender, marriage, and sexuality to benefit themselves (which is good) but 1. Condemn the methods used to gain the facts, especially about sexuality, and 2. Fail to honestly scrutinize the nature of Bible-based gender prescriptions and their effects in the real world. If we were still attempting to follow biblical teachings specific to gender and marriage roles, our marriage would still be a toxic wasteland. None of what has transformed our relationship came from the Bible, and in fact, some of it runs absolutely contrary to clear biblical teaching. We would love to see this honestly examined by thoughtful evangelicals. What we hear from conservative Christians now sounds an awful lot like God’s PR staff–excuses, spin doctoring, and denial.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMEN! Totally agree, Anonymous. And I’m so glad that you’re doing better now. I know from your other comments what a journey this has been for you both. I know it’s still a struggle, but I’m glad you’re finding your voice.
      And I hope that when our survey is out that people will see the data. It is very serious when we make God sound like He’s upset if we simply act the way He made us, if that doesn’t fit some pre-ordained role.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I keep expecting you to stop posting my increasingly heretical comments, Sheila, and am honestly impressed every time you let them through. Lol
        I want to add that I should have written that we learned to understand ourselves and each other and to respect ourselves and each other. This perspective also couldn’t be justified from biblical teachings on man’s depravity, self, flesh, suffering, etc.

        Reply
        • Arwen

          I’m sorry, Anon, but what part of the Bible’s marriage and gender roles are “toxic wastelands?” Please, give me chapter and verse. Because you’re literally slandering God with that statement. There is not ONE problem in the entire Bible, only in the way people interpret it. So if you can give me this “toxic wasteland” that God has prescribed for His people, I would so love to see that.

          Reply
        • Anon

          Dear Anonymous, I wonder if it’s true that “None of what has transformed our relationship came from the Bible, and in fact, some of it runs absolutely contrary to clear biblical teaching.” Because, for example, you mention that Sheila’s blog has been helpful to you, and the main reason I love her blog so much is because it is so solidly based on the Bible.
          The problem with ‘Biblical teaching’ is that by definition, it involves someone telling us what they think the Bible says. You mentioned that “every biblical injunction re: gender that we believed and tried to enforce during the first two dozen years of our marriage made it more toxic.” I’m actually struggling to come up with a lot of Biblical injunctions regarding gender…most of the Bible’s injunctions are how God expects His PEOPLE (of either gender) to follow Him. And I’m also struggling to see how following those ‘injunctions’ would make any relationship worse.
          Maybe it’s time to stop listening to what the ‘reviewers’ say the Bible says and start having a conversation with the Author!

          Reply
  8. Anon

    Don’t get me started on the church’s attitude to gender! I work as a gardener, and I’ve been told more than once that I’m ‘sinful’ because I’m doing a ‘man’s’ job.
    And so many churches have ‘men’s events’ with interesting speakers (and usually great food – curries or cooked breakfasts) while ‘women’s events’ are usually cake & gossip or if you do get a ‘speaker’ it’s about how to make yourself look more attractive, as if the only thing about a woman that matters is her exterior.
    But I think the ‘best’ (i.e. worst) example I ever came across was in a book by a male Christian author who claimed that there were standards for Godly men and women which even extended to height and build. ‘Godly’ men would be tall, well built and muscular and ‘Godly’ women would be petite and curvy. I’d love to know what happens when a tall, angular woman becomes a Christian – does she suddenly shrink?!!!

    Reply
    • Ina

      What?! How can someone be that crazy?! I guess I’m incredibly lucky my husband is tall and I’m short. So happy to be more ‘godly’ than other folks 🙄
      Seriously, though, do these pastors/,authors even read the Bible or do any contextual interpretation or do they just write whatever pops into that head?!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! John Piper has made quite a big deal about how there should not be muscular women. (I find it kind of odd considering what a small, short man he is.) Why can’t we just acknowledge that God made us in all shapes and sizes, and that this doesn’t mean we’re worth more one way or the other?

      Reply
      • Anon

        And even odder if you think that most women in the Bible would have been muscular – e.g. just think of the energy Ruth expended in gleaning all day and then threshing out what she had gleaned. Not to mention all the washing, baking, weaving etc that many women would have done ALL DAY – look at any woman in a culture which doesn’t have labour saving appliances and they will have very muscular arms – it takes a lot of muscle to wash a whole family’s laundry by hand in a river!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Very true!

          Reply
  9. Kya

    Amen to all of this!! I’m one of those women who doesn’t really fit the mold (though it’s reassuring to know that I’m actually in the range of normal for height!). My friends in high school used to joke that I was only 51% female, and 49% male. I have a dominant personality and zero interest in chick flicks, fashion, home decorating, and many other traditionally female topics. When I’m in a Christian group setting and people inevitably break off into “men’s” groups and “women’s” groups for conversation, I try to join the men because their topics of conversation are more likely to interest me. My husband, on the other hand, is perceived as too effeminate by some. (The number of people who have assume he was homosexual because of this is something we both find entertaining.) But when he tries to join the women’s groups for conversation, he is all but herded back to the men while they try to drag me away to join them. It’s like a scene from a ridiculous comedy–why can’t we simply join the conversation that interests us, regardless of our plumbing?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree, Kya! It’s funny, I speak at a lot of women’s events, but I don’t always enjoy the actual events. I wouldn’t go to most myself (except the sex talk I do! That one is a ton of fun!). But women’s events where there has to be a craft with a mason jar, or you have to have special music, or you have to spend so much time decorating. Honestly, I’d rather just chat. And I’ve taken to bringing my knitting when people decorate mason jars. I don’t want a mason jar, but I do need time to knit!

      Reply
      • Eps

        Ha! Yes. I felt totally out of my depth organising you to come give a talk as I never really go to women’s events! Glad you came though 😊

        Reply
  10. Wifey

    My parents taught my brothers to sew a button, cook a meal, change diapers, care for babies, dust and keep a house clean. They also taught my sister and I how to jump a car, change a tire, weedeat, mow, and use a drill. Those are life skills, not gender specific! I have one son and one on the way and you better believe my husband and I endeavor to teach them as much as possible to be well rounded.
    2 hundred years ago I feel like in some ways the gender divide wasn’t as pronounced in simple tasks because every ounce of energy had to go into survival and protecting your family. I find it fascinating to study how skewed Victorian theology and popular culture greatly influenced the church in a ‘women are the epitome of morality and men are mortals in need of rescuing by their angels of light’ nonsense. And how the church is still recovering from some of that bad theology.
    P.S- I totally agree on the male/female retreats churches do. I mean come on- I love doing crafts but I can do them on my own, I can’t go camping by myself! Why do the men have all the fun adventure retreats? I’ve been frustrated about that since I was 10 years old! I lean a bit more complementarian but these sorts of things incense me as well.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you’re spot on about life 200 years ago. Families tended to do things together out of necessity. And there was a lot more blurring of gender lines. Even 150 years ago, most people worked in family businesses like stores or else on farms. Again, lots of blurring of gender lines. And kids were often much more engaged with their fathers when all work was done in the home (since many families lived above their businesses). Very different from today, and that has definitely seeped into the church.

      Reply
      • Andrea

        It was the industrial revolution and capitalism that divided labor from the homestead and the genders along those lines as well.
        On the topic of gender-specific retreats, can you imagine men’s events where they discuss how to stay in shape for their wives and how to keep their penises hard through old age, where they discuss the ethics of Viagra (after all, it is messing with God and nature), participate in exercises that ask them to name at least three things they like about their body… you get the point. But I’m not completely making fun of this. Given the number of women who complain about their husbands’ weight, down to the details of the belly getting in the way of the penis, men should consider discussing these issues at their events!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Ha! Yes, we certainly do talk about very different things!

          Reply
    • EOF

      We’ve been watching Little House on the Prairie, and things were definitely different back then! (Assuming the portrayal is accurate.) The mother is the kind of Christian woman I’d like to be – strong and not afraid to call her husband out, yet at the same time respectful of him. She wasn’t perfect, but what an inspiration! She worked hard, whether in the house or out in the fields when needed. She was a strong woman, a good example as a mother, and an honorable wife without turning it into the idolatrous state so applauded today.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I loved that show so much! My daughter Katie has the whole DVD set and she still watches them. 🙂

        Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      Sure you can go camping by yourself! I’ve done it.🤣

      Reply
  11. Denise

    Hi this is a good post. I definitely feel that some writers would like to paint men and women as different species. We all have our own challenges and things that make us unique–my son is left handed and the rest of the family is right handed.
    I feel as if I have many things in common with my son that I don’t have with my daughter or husband—hair type, good vision, preference for certain foods. My daughter and husband are going to be life long 24/7 glasses wearers—they have their own struggles with this which my son and I haven’t had to face.
    But even when it might be appropriate to divide things into a mars/venus type perspectives…….I feel the descriptions of women are so wildly inaccurate–like a certain pastor saying women suffer from “PreMurder Syndrome” in his book—it just ends up being a divisive slap in the face.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really does, Denise. I do think that there are certainly gender differences, but I also don’t think those need to divide us really, or that they even have to be that annoying. And sometimes we get along better with the child that is the LEAST like us, not the one that is the most like us (not talking about me in particular here, if Rebecca is reading!). Differences don’t have to be a big problem, but often our teaching makes it sound like differences are something that is ordained.

      Reply
  12. EOF

    These gender roles are so damaging. I don’t even fit into the average height of my gender! And I have often veered off in so many other traditional ways. I always grew up believing there was a lot wrong with me because of abuses/traumas in my early years. Then going to church and having that reinforced only made me feel like more of a an undesirable freak. Then to get berated/lectured by my new husband for not being a proper wife only made my wounds worse.
    I’m grateful for this blog which has helped open my eyes to a lot of things, and I’m now (usually) more confident than ever. I’m also reading The Body Keeps Score as recommended here, and even though I’m still early in the book, it’s been very eye opening too. I have hope! It’s nice to read that PTSD isn’t only something that happens to veterans – that was what I heard as a desperately struggling teen trying to find help and an explanation for what was so deeply wrong with me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m glad you’re reading that book! I found it so fascinating. When he gets to the second half where he’s talking about treatments, it gets even more interesting.

      Reply
      • EOF

        I can’t wait for that part!

        Reply
  13. Madeline

    Thank you for this Keith! I’m glad others are seeing the problems with the church’s tendency to over-emphasize gender differences. I don’t write that to say that I don’t think there is any difference, of course I think the two genders have a lot to learn from one another’s perspective, but it becomes a real issue when Christian marriage advice is based solely on gender. I recently read part of a marriage book (I say part because I didn’t have the stomach to finish it) that made men and women’s callings sound so drastically different it felt like we should have two different gospels! They didn’t even bother adding a throwaway line about difference in personality or acknowledge that no two people are exactly alike, regardless of gender. That book made me more appreciative that the TLHV team puts the gospel at the center of marriage and family teaching, although it’s sad that that’s not a given in all Christian ministry.
    I’m curious what everyone thinks is the reason behind gender bloated marriage teaching. Is it an overreaction to the secular world detracting from the reality of gender differences? Or is it just lazy thinking? Or something completely different? I’d like to hear thoughts.

    Reply
    • EOF

      I was wondering the same thing, but more along the lines of WHEN all of these teachings began. They were alive and well in the 1970-80s based off some books I was given as a newly married woman twenty years ago. I wonder if it was in reaction to the sexual revolution and women joining the workforce and getting other rights, such as simple things like having a credit card without needing a man’s name on it.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      My family talks about this a lot, often while we’re in the hot tub having deep philosophical discussions. 🙂
      Here’s one theory: the Christian world wants to differentiate itself from the secular world. So when we write marriage books, we have to say something that secular books wouldn’t say. And the only thing we really have is gender. And so we emphasize gender so that we’re not like the world.
      The other factor, I think, is that gender hierarchy is so engrained in so many Christians, that it becomes the cornerstone of what they teach. The number of churches that put gender hierarchy is their statement of beliefs, alongside Jesus being the Son of God, is quite alarming. But many churches are very wedded to that, and it really distorts the gospel, I think.

      Reply
      • Anon

        To justify treating men and women so differently, you have to make them appear to be very different – hence the stereotypes. and the portrayal of women as less intelligent than men, only interested in trivial matters, less spiritual than men etc. You end up with a kind of circular argument that views a certain female stereotype as ‘good’, but you know it’s ‘good’ because it’s how all ‘good’ women behave… Any women who don’t fit the stereotype are ‘bad’ so you don’t have to worry about them because they’re not living the right way anyway…
        It is ingrained, going back centuries. I’ve read some Bible commentaries from late 19th/early 20th century and it is horrific to see the writers’ attitudes toward women. When you’re dealing with around 150 years of teaching, you can’t expect to undo it all at once.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, this is it exactly.

          Reply
        • Madeline

          Very interesting and persuasive, Anon and Sheila. I didn’t want to jump straight to the conclusion that this is done to preserve the gender hierarchy and thus push women down “in their place” but it seems that that’s what a lot of this stems from. Sad, really.
          Do you (any of you) think that there’s a way to rely heavily on gender differences in Christian teaching that does not ultimately boil down the hierarchy? And is there anything at all that’s biblical or Christlike about seeing gender as hierarchical?
          My personal answer to both of those is no, but I’m really curious what others think.

          Reply
        • Bre

          The sad part is that the bad ideas about women go VERY far back, back to pretty much after the first 3 or 4 generations of Christians died. Look up Augustine, Luther, and Calvin’s views on women (among other great “Church fathers”) if you want to feel sad/disgusted/mad. Augustine in particular was…yeah. He openly said that women who were beat by their husbands deserved it because they were sinning and had to be “taught” their place and all but said that it should be the norm for a Christian couple . He actually talked about how his OWN MOTHER was a Godly woman because she was beaten regularly by his father, accepted that it was her fault and for her own good, and taught younger/new wives to basically suck it up and stop whining and sinning when their husbands beat them. He basically called his mother the pinnacle of Christian womanhood for thinking that her abuse was good. Actually, a lot of Augustine’s stuff in this area is very problematic because he had a very promiscuous background pre-Jesus and his writing really shows that it did a number on him. He felt ashamed about his past and frustrated about his sexual impulses. He felt that he couldn’t control them, so he then literally came to the theological conclusion that sex, passion, sexual arousal, marriage, and women are all inherently evil and/or a necessary evil barely tolerated by God. It’s heartbreaking, really.
          All this “gender role” stuff is actually pretty new and soft compared to the traditional historical view, which ,basically, was women are evil, scummy, worse than men, half-humans, not really made in the image of God, ect. Sad, sad, really super sad. I’ll link to a couple of sources in another comment below this; you don’t have to read them, I just want to show where I got this stuff so that people don’t think that I’m making it up. I also just found a copy of some of Augustine’s works at a local bookstore and added it to my ‘to read’ pile so I can have first-hand knowledge of his stuff…this summer shall be fun…and probally make me want to scream at walls…

          Reply
          • Bre
          • Bre

            Darn it, didn’t work!
            But what I was going to share was from Marg Mowczko’s website and The Awake Deborah blogs that had work by Bob and Helga Edwards. Marg’s stuff was basically just quotes proving that the gender role/ soft hierarchy is a newer, tamer idea compared to the traditional blatant misogyny.
            The Edward’s stuff is very scholarly, but VERY good, and contains lots of quotations and document citations that show how clearly the early church fathers hated women, came up with these ideas and doctrines and then crammed in some scripture to support it, and how they used Greek and Roman philosophy as an “interpretive guide” to the Bible and read scripture through their cultural/ educational glasses. I’d definitely search “Helga Edwards” on You tube (first profile that comes up) and then watch “The Origins of Male Authority in the Church”. Her husband is basically giving a condensed, informal, watered-down version of a lecture on their research. It’s 1.5 hours long and in-depth, but accessible, and is very enlightening. And I also just plain love it because I’m a history nerd.

          • Anonymous

            Bre, thank you so much for posting this! Wouldn’t it be amazing if new scholarship showed that all the parts of Scripture that enable abusers and silence the abused were shown to be polluted by self-serving patriarchal translators ensuring that men retain divine rights over women? Christianity might stop bleeding adherents.

          • Bre

            Anonymous, actually that is 100% what I believe! I’m very much egalitarian/Christian Feminist/pro-pastor women, ect. and the Edwards (Specifically Bob) actually have a big role to play in that.
            I was trying to research the topic because I’m in a college ministry where the pastor is a “chubby, middle-age mom of three” and some relatives told me I was deceived by the Devil and on the road to Hell. I love the ministry; it’s my home and you can feel God’s presence SO POWERFULLY there and in the individual people. I was scared, panicked, and lost because all I was finding was stuff along the lines of Driscoll, Grudem and Piper. Then I found an actrical that Bob Edwards wrote refuting the idea that women are subject to men and I JUMPED on it and basically emailed him with a book-length list of questions and disbelief.
            He cited a lot of his research and pointed me towards him and his wife’s books…I now own all them…it was like a bomb went off in my life and I was confused and ANGRY. There are varying formal, informal, and professional interpretations on this stuff, but the Edward’s is the best that I’ve read and SO clear, even with all the academic stuff. They both are very well-learned and credentialed.
            If this stuff interests you, you HAVE to read their books “Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church” and “The Equality Workbook: Freedom in Christ from the Oppression of Patriarchy”. The domestic abuse one DOES correct/refute the idea that you can’t divorce for abuse (and that it is a bigger sin that abuse when, really, God has some pretty intense feelings on abuse and violence) and that “submitting more” will fix everything! They both have degrees in psychology and have broken down how, mentally and socially, these ideas came about and influenced Bible translation and church traditions.
            Their work helped me clear out all the junk that I had been indirectly taught, but it hurt and made me question reality. I’d never thought about our modern Bibles being translations and was mad at God for letting people screw things up. I didn’t get why, if you could actually learn this stuff by learning the original languages and researching, people were still denying it…it almost felt like gaslighting. I exchanged emails with Bob and it honestly helped SO MUCH. He and his wife are very humble and kind. He told me that (paraphrasing in my words) people are conditioned to believe things that are inaccurate and false; many literally can’t understand and others willfully don’t want to see because of sin. He was just very patient and comforting and it helped.
            Sorry to rant, but this is something I’m SO passionate about. It’s actually my one-year anniversary of when I first found out about this stuff and started researching, reading, and praying more about it. I’m still angry, nervous, scared, and uncertain at times, but I definitely believe that, for whatever reason, the harmful stuff is the result of human sin and error and not the intention of God. I just wanted to say all this stuff because, from your comments, you sound like someone who’s really hurt and, while I definitely never lived your experiences…I can understand the feeling of wanting to untangle all the junk and hoping that there is a “better truth” (so to speak) and I definitely believe that it’s out there and there is hope and freedom for better if you look at other places beside the popular “church culture” narratives.

  14. Anon

    Thank you for writing this. I am not a very “manly” man. I don’t like the typical manly things and I have always felt insecure about this. It has even caused me to question my sexuality.
    I just wonder if this applies when it comes to what men and women need. As I said I am not a manly man. I am very fragile emotionally. I am also very needy emotionally. I often wonder if it is ok. I hear in many men’s group that the man needs to be strong emotionally to give the woman security. But what if I need a lot of security?
    Dumb example but for some reason I read a lot of stories about people who have been cheated on and people who cheated. It’s dumb but it’s my biggest fear so I keep reading it. One of these day I got to scared and all I wanted was a hug and comfort. It’s not manly to want that but I went fast to my wife and asked for a hug. I didn’t told her the reason. I didn’t feel very manly. And I wonder if I can be like that as a man.
    Even when it comes to chores * am not handy at all. I prefer to do what’s traditionally seen as female chores. Give me dishes and laundry and so on but ask me to build something or use any tools, it’s just not me. Yet I’m expected to do that because im a man. And I feel bad about not liking those things.
    Makes me feel less of a man.

    Reply
    • Elsie

      Hello Anon, I’m so sorry gender stereotypes have made you feel bad. You shouldn’t have to feel bad for being emotional- being in touch with your emotional needs is a good thing! Many societies have taught men that it is not masculine to be aware of or express emotions in any other way besides anger/aggression, which causes huge problems. Being able to express other emotions like fear or sadness is much healthier than being unemotional or angry all the time. It doesn’t make you less of a man. Although always feeling needy might be a separate issue to work on, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t a man.

      Reply
  15. Bre

    I totally agree with this and actually have been thinking about this topic lately! Something else I’ve noticed in the church in this area is that there seems to be a pretty big denile of the influence of culture on gender roles. One of the things that really annoys me is that people use the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender interchangeably and when you point out that they mean two different things, freak out about that being a new “left-wing, gender-bending, immoral, Satanic” conspiracy.
    Even if it is a newer idea, I think that it is true and find the overreaction immature; the meaning of words have changed plenty, for instance, ass and bitch (sorry about the language) used to mean very harmless things before they came to be swears. Even if it is changing the traditional meaning, all they mean is Sex= Biology: You are male or female and all the chemical/psychological/biological things that come with that; and Gender=Cultural/sociological; What traits your culture(s) says are male or female (women wear dresses, men like cars, ect.) It gets so frustrating when people freak out about “separating the terms”. It’s less confusing than interchanging two words and, seriously… they are threatened by the idea that culture influences what people think makes a “real man” and a “real woman”? It’s not some anti-God conspiracy; it’s just common sense!
    The sad part is that I used to think along these lines until I took a “Sociology of the Family” class two years ago. Yes; there was some sexually/ethically immoral stuff taught that made me feel cringy. But a lot of it actually made common-sense. Especially the idea of gender as a cultural construction of what “makes” you male or female, beyond the body God gave you. Honestly, a lot of the church teaching tends be based in Western norms. Example: some preachers will freak out about men wearing dresses or make-up or anything that could seem “girly” and can get downright militant about it. In Eastern countries, men wear clothes that are considered “male” clothes in their culture, but would be considered dresses in our culture (heck, the same would go for all the Bible characters in Christian movies and IRL!) For the majority of history, make-up was for both sexes and high heels were for men; in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, things shifted. And who does the cooking, cleaning, car care, ect. changes highly depending on culture. Half those traits that are considered important to being a “Biblical” man or women are literally impossible in places like Africa, the Middle East, or South America, where people are poorer or their culture just isn’t structured like ours. Does that mean that, even if those people love God with all their heart and have accepted Jesus as their Savior, that they are lesser in God’s eyes? (NO!)
    Just my thoughts. I enjoyed the article and think that we in the Christian Church need to focus less on gender roles. Humans are amazingly diverse and that’s a reflection of God’s creative genius; why can’t we just be happy and learn to respect and appreciate the diversity of traits, personalities, giftings, talents, and physical features? Why do we need to create a dichotomy/hierarchy where certain traits make someone more or less Godly than others?

    Reply
    • Arwen

      Bre, i commented below that the Western definition of gender roles tend to not work when you’re poor. This is something black people have addressed in articles, podcasts, etc. And you’re right, Jesus did wear a dress, not pants, but not a dress as we know them in the West but dress as in what modern day Middle Eastern’s still wear.
      Here is the article that shows how Biblical Manhood gender roles are very difficult for people of color to practice, i think you will enjoy it: https://thewitnessbcc.com/poc-evangelicalism-white-centered-discipleship-part-2/

      Reply
      • Bre

        I probably could have explained better about the dress thing. My point was that cultural context matters. When I wrote my comment, I was thinking about how you can still occasionally read/hear about some wack-o pastor teaching that pants are only the only acceptable clothes for men and that it’s a sin to women to wear them, but that’s a Western cultural assumption/idea that they’ve read into the Bible because, as you mentioned, pants weren’t really a thing back then (I don’t think… I’m a Elementary Education major, not an anthropologist, Ha-ha!) Clothing classifications/definitions are not “one size fits all” and that is something that changes with culture; that was what I was getting at. Sorry; I’m not great with words.
        Thanks for the article; I can’t wait to read it! I can see how gender roles would be an issue for poor/disadvantaged people, but I haven’t read many articles on the topic, even though I’d like to, because I am openly clueless on the topic and have no idea where to find solid writing/research about it. It’s definitely something that I don’t think people think enough about; how can these ideas be “Biblical” if it’s impossible for many people to follow them? God isn’t trying to trick us and the Bible says that he wants everyone to come to him and be saved, so what does it say about God that a lot of the “Godly man/woman” ideas being pushed can’t be lived out by everyone? Especially considering that Jesus talked a lot about poor/marginalized/disadvantaged people and sympathized with them? We really need to think through some of the implications of this stuff because it could seriously scare/drive people away from God!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          One of the biggest ways that gender roles are for middle class is the idea that a woman must stay at home while a man provides. In many Third World countries, and in poorer segments of our own society, both parents need to work. It’s not an option. So while we may aspire to an arrangement with a stay at home parent, to say that it’s a sin to work is another thing entirely, and does impose burdens on the poor that the Bible never would.

          Reply
          • Jane Eyre

            I don’t want to open a can of worms, but the idea of a woman at home with the kids is a historical anomaly. Women might have been “at home,” but they were farming, cooking, weaving, canning, sewing, cleaning: working dawn to dusk. They weren’t spending all their time playing with their children. Now we have modern appliances for those things (thankfully), but that doesn’t mean we are wired to spend ALL that newfound time with our kids.
            I’ll also open the can of worms of couples wherein the woman outearns the man. It’s remarkable how many people squawk that we need to have a parent at home, and when I suggest that my husband would be ill-suited to that, react in such a way that shows they meant that people with ovaries shouldn’t work.
            You also get into the problems of women not really transitioning back into the workforce after their kids are in school. Their skills are out of date and, absent being a teacher or nurse, struggle to get their feet in the door. Companies would rather hire someone ten years younger with the same amount of experience and fresh skills.
            Not sure if it’s a big thing in Canada, but multi-level marketing companies all but prey on nice middle class women who are at home and want to be able to “have their own business” or work from home. Most people barely make any money or straight-up lose money on those enterprises, but there’s a lot of women who want contribute to the family finances.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            All very true, Jane (it’s funny; I’ve had a couple of people ask me to write about MLMs; maybe I will soon). 200 years ago, women were at home but were farming or working in a family business. The family all worked in it! Life has definitely changed a lot.

  16. Ina

    These comments bring to mind one of my favourite books: “Half the Church, ” by Carolyn Custis James. She makes the point that if our definition of godly, biblical womanhood doesn’t work for women who aren’t wealthy, western, middle class women than, well, we’ve probably got something wrong in our interpretation of scripture.
    Highly recommend this book, by the way. It has been instrumental for me in healing from some of the damaging messages so prevalent in the evangelical church. Not completely there yet, though. Somedays it feels so heavy. I’m grateful for a husband who reminds me regularly that I’m an image bearer of God, a co-heir, and that Jesus lifted women up again and again in his ministry.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      She has great stuff to say about the word “ezer”, too, about being a helper. We talked about that a little bit in our post on warrior wives!

      Reply
      • Ina

        Yes! I remember the first time I heard her break down the word ezer in her earlier book: “When Life and Belief Collide.” I sobbed so hard. I’m glad that you’ve shared that message with your readers as well! It really gives a much more powerful image than the English “helpmeet!”

        Reply
    • EOF

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to get that book!

      Reply
  17. Elsie

    Very well-said and great points! The quote by Driscoll is gross. Unfortunately many Christians make gender roles into an idol even though there’s not much support biblically. It’s made me feel increasingly discouraged over the years but posts like this encourage me.

    Reply
  18. Arwen

    Keith this was good. Another aspect people miss when defining gender roles that are not prescribed in the Bible is that they put a yolk on those who are not able to practice such roles. Example; people of color. These gender roles are harder to practice outside of middle class societies.
    Ameen from The Witness, wrote a great article on this demonstrating how these types of views do more harm for the vast majority of the world. Here is the article: https://thewitnessbcc.com/poc-evangelicalism-white-centered-discipleship-part-2/

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s such an important point, Arwen! Absolutely.

      Reply
    • Susanna Musser

      Arwen, what an excellent and heartening article! Thank you for sharing this!

      Reply
  19. Moriah W

    AMEN and THANK YOU to Keith for this post! It’s something I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to articulate for years.
    Anyone who enjoyed this blog post should read “Are Women Human?” by the late great Dorothy L Sayers. Fantastic stuff dealing with the same issues and how many women would love to be treated first as human beings.
    P. S. Longtime lurker, first time commenter! I’ve been reading this blog since before my wedding in 2018 and finally commented. Keep up the good work, Sheila and Keith!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Welcome, Moriah! And I love Dorothy Sayers. Just love her. I love Peter Wimsey; I love her essays; I love her nonfiction works. Just an amazing woman.

      Reply
    • Bre

      I actually just bought “Are Women Human?” because it was on sale and sounded interesting. I never heard of it before….now I can’t wait for it to arrive!

      Reply
      • Moriah W

        It’sa phenomenal book. I had to resist the urge to underline everything!!

        Reply
    • Susanna Musser

      I love Dorothy Sayers but had never heard of this book! Adding it to my must-read list. Thanks for taking time to mention it, Moriah!

      Reply
  20. Sarah

    Funny!
    Just last Sunday my Pastor was speaking on how a wife should always respect her husband’s temper and not say a word back at him when he’s angry as he’ll feel she’s challenging his authority.
    He was quick to point though that he knew some people wouldn’t share his view but that he spoke the minds of most men.
    They loved women who knew how to let them get angry and keep quiet!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s awful. What an unbiblical thing to say! Seriously, if your husband is routinely losing his temper and yelling at you or the kids, you must speak up and say that will not be tolerated (unless to do so puts you in harm, in which case you need to get help).
      I like my iron sharpens iron series better than what that pastor said!

      Reply
    • Anon

      Presumably, when the wife loses her temper, the husband should also respect her and not say a word back to her?!

      Reply
  21. Jane Eyre

    Great post, Keith.
    I love how you articulated the awful slide from tendencies -> everyone -> Biblical mandate. That explains it so well.
    There are a lot of ways the men used to treat women that were not okay: walking out on them for a younger woman, controlling the flow of money, treating them like trophies and not humans, sex without commitment, ignoring family responsibilities. Now that a certain subgroup of women have started treating men like that, the Christian response has been… to try to return to the time when men had the power. Crazy idea here, but why not ditch the gender roles framework and just talk about how we ALL have responsibilities to each other, our marriages, and our families?
    Don’t walk out on your spouse. Money earned is the family’s money. Your career is there to support the family, not your ego. Spend time with your kids. Sex is not frivolous and has deep ramifications. The fact that it takes two people is your first clue that it’s not all about you.
    And don’t get me started on all the women’s groups. It’s one thing to fellowship with women in a group, but the “women’s group” topics treat us like wombs on legs. We can do real theology too, I promise.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen to all!

      Reply
    • Bre

      THIS. Thank you; even though I haven’t experienced anything super bad or sexist directly in my own church experience, I can still see if everywhere and have struggled to put my thoughts and feelings into words. The part about some women wanting to stop make oppression/abuse oppressing men making the vast majority of Christianity focus on “ putting women back in their place”….it makes so much sense and is what I’ve been trying to put into words. It really frustrates me how the immoral actions of some ( who are also sad, broken humans who need love and God just as much as anyone else) are used to basically gaslight Christian women into thinking that sexism and discrimination against females don’t exist ( hint; just because equality is in the law doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly decides to treat each other with respect). You’re spot on; why can’t we just talk about right/wrong and responsibilities? The New Testament focuses on being Godly people and relating to each other in love; gender and stuff only comes up in response to specific situations…100% agree with you. Thank you so much.

      Reply
    • Madeline

      I really like your comment, especially the second paragraph Jane; it’s so true. Do you think this also applies to the segments of Christians who are staunchly against men and women working closely together? Men have had female secretaries and assistants for a few generations now, but there seems to be a big push lately for men and women to interact as little as possible even in professional settings in case it breeds temptation or lust. It seems that this has become a problem now that women can work at the same level as men or hold leadership/management positions. If a woman has a male assistant, it’s somehow more scandalous.
      Maybe I’m mistaken and the same portion who argue for such extreme separation did back in the day also and I’m just not old enough to remember it.

      Reply
      • Anon

        I’ve noticed that most of the men who are arguing for separation at work are arguing about roles where women would be equal to them or above them in terms of authority – I’m guessing this wasn’t an issue years ago because women would have been in an inferior position – e.g. secretary, receptionist.
        I’ve yet to hear one man saying that he shouldn’t have a female secretary because of the need to protect his ‘reputation’ (and yet the number of bosses who’ve had affairs with their secretaries is huge!), but I’ve heard a number arguing against having to work closely with a woman whose role is equal to or superior to his own (e.g. the guy who said he couldn’t work with a female police officer and the guy who said he couldn’t work with a female manager)
        So they can shout all they like about temptation, reputation and protecting their marriages – but until they start being equally worried about working with female receptionists, assistants or secretaries, I won’t be convinced.

        Reply
        • Madeline

          Yes, Anon, this is exactly what I thought I was seeing!

          Reply
      • Bre

        From what I’ve seen in Christian circles specifically, it actually is that the guys are scared of their secretaries or administrative assistants, especially pastors. Pastors are also scared to be alone with female parishioners/ congregation members, especially ones that have some sort of official position. And it seems like the places that place a premium on men being in charge and are complementarian/only-men-can-run-things.
        Like, for instance, in a denomination that ordains women at a study group, a pastor once said that the church he refused to touch her at all or be near her “physical space” because “it could lead to bad things and you need to be discerning and careful and take precautions.” He actually said “Even if she was sad and crying, I wouldn’t pat her on the shoulder or offer a hug because it would be highly inappropriate and risky.” That always really disturbed me because, even if they discussed it and it was a mutual thing,
        1.) Unless you have specifically struggled with actual lust and/or sexual sin…then why are you worried? It’s called self control and if you are seriously that concerned, either you have an irrational fear of females or you have serious issues that need to be addressed and you are clearly unfit for ministry in the first place.
        2.) Why are you worried that it will go somewhere bad? Do you really have that little of a trust in the woman’s moral character or ability to regulate her impulses and have self control? In the specific case that I saw, the woman was young and the pastor had known her since she was a college freshman in his wife’s college ministry. He had known her husband for just as long as he knew her. The pastor and his wife had been their mentors and the couple was both in the age range of their own children. Why are you so scared of a young woman who you’ve seen grow spiritually and helped on her journey? Not that affairs have never happened in these situations, but it’s still kinda odd an a bit downright creepy that your mind would even go to that place at all.
        3.) How is this policy Christ-like? Fearing each other and acting like your fellow heirs to the Kingdom God are basically “stumbling blocks” waiting to destroy you? How is that constructive to working together to further the Church’s mission? The man that I had been in the group with literally said that he wouldn’t try to comfort her if she was sad. Yes, I know that you don’t have to have physical contact to help, but it is encouraged in some trainings for informal counseling/advising with a non-certified person who is just there to listen to you (like my local crisis pregnancy center). And, honestly, many people, me included, just need a hug when they are struggling. I would feel AWFUL if I were having an anxiety attack and I asked for a hug and were told that it would be improper and dangerous to comfort me and could be misjudged! Definitely not very Christ-like to exempt yourself from offering compassion and comfort.
        Basically, my feel overall is that it’s split between not wanting women in higher positions and seeing women as basically sexually imorality incarnate and a danger to them that needs to be avoided. I see more of that than jealousy/competitiveness, in this sort of idea, honestly. Like what Sheila has talked about a lot with the “all men lust” and “gatekeeper” ideas and commented on in podcasts; the idea that ‘ladies, if you sin sexually it’s your fault. If a man sins sexually, even against you, it’s also your fault because the female body and sexuality are dangerous.’ People don’t call it that and make the rules sound holy and benevolent, but it really boils down to that.

        Reply
  22. unmowngrass

    I do love the quote, “Men are from Earth, women are from Earth, deal with it!” 😉
    Thanks for the article Keith!

    Reply
    • Kayla

      Yes!! God made Eve from Adam’s rib.

      Reply
  23. Kayla

    Yes, I agree! As much as I like being feminine, there’s a lot that men and women have in common.
    One thing that really bothers me is hearing women are less logical than men. My mom, her brothers, and her sisters, are all deep thinkers, there’s no difference between men & women as far as good thinking.
    My husband & I are able to reason through things on the same level, and our differences tend to be individual, not male/female.
    All believers need to be led by the Spirit. If women are hopelessly led by emotions, we’d have no choice! But we all have the choice to live by wisdom.

    Reply
  24. Anon

    I feel as though my husband uses this excuse as a way to prove that I’ll never understand him. Also, he throws out, “that’s just how men are!” as a way of “proving” his point and ending the argument.
    In one particular argument, he was trying to excuse his inability to process emotion as just a male thing. What didn’t make any sense to me is that I KNOW what it’s like to not know how to process emotion, but I’ve gone through a lot of emotional healing and I’ve learned a lot to get to a healthier place. So to use gender as an excuse just seemed ridiculous.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, Anon, it is sad that so many people do that. And you’re right–once we go through a lot of emotional healing, it is much easier to talk about emotions.
      Sometimes people are introverted and just don’t talk much, but even that doesn’t mean that they can’t talk about emotions when they do. I’m sorry your husband uses that card. You can look at my emotional re-connection email course (it’s free!) and see if that helps you connect more.

      Reply
  25. Anon

    I was really hoping this would address the Farrels and the spaghetti/waffles idea. My education is in neuroscience and I haven’t heard of any genuine research that backs up this idea from them. And it has often led to women’s ideas being dismissed, including mine… “spaghetti brain” doesn’t sound like someone that would have good input.
    I did buy their book and I see that it was Bill’s idea of how to help a husband listen to his wife and respect she was seeing some things about the big picture that he was missing. I think the analogy had good motives, but isn’t really based on science and in many situations has backfired harmfully.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Hey, Anon! Yeah, a lot of research I’ve seen lately seems to suggest that both men and women have parts of their lives that are “spaghetti” and “waffles.” It’s mainly socialization and priorities that change what those areas are. Totally not biologically based at all. If you have any good neuroscience studies about this or any gender difference stuff you want to send us, we’re always looking for new research to use in our posts, courses, books, and podcasts!
      And I do think that the spaghetti/waffles idea has led to silencing women because their worries are “irrelevant to the issue at hand” or the just need to learn to be more “logical.” It is a real problem when theories and anecdotes are presented as God-given facts or evidence-based truths.

      Reply
  26. River

    Excellent post.
    Another thing I might point out in the gender difference thing is that MANY churches & people believe that women are not created in the image of God. In their eyes only men are. (Please don’t ask me how they justify the science of genetics & women giving birth to a son who is”in God’s image- when she herself supposedly isn’t)
    Its a ludicrous & non-bilical belief and definitely helps support their treating women differently and often wrongly. My own brother is heavily leaning this way, and his behavior because of this mindset, as a Christian man towards women, is such that I don’t even want to be around him anymore.
    We were also raised in an extreme complementarian & totalitarian home, so there is a lot of seong teachings we were inundate with as children.
    I’m currently reading The Making Of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr and it is doing an amazing job thus far in showing how patriarchy is historically a teaching/pattern of the world itself, and how in embracing it as Christ followers we are being like the world and not at all how God intended from scripture.
    People have twisted scripture to make it say what they want, when they want. And the treatment of women is one very obvious example of this.

    Reply
  27. Kate Sanderson

    I love the sweater Sheila is wearing in the photograph. What pattern did she make it from?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      If you’re on Ravelry, I’m sheilagregoire if you want to friend me and look at my projects! I know the color scheme of the kit was marmalade, and it was by Maureen Jamieson something…I forget. But I’m pretty sure it’s on Ravelry in my projects!

      Reply
      • Kate Sanderson

        Thanks!

        Reply
  28. Jenni

    After reading and listening to many conversations like this about gender, I became curious about what messages my young sons were accepting about godliness and gender. So I asked them the same questions but spoke to each of them separately. They both (my 12-year-old and 9-year-old) answered the same way:
    First I started with aa very open-ended question and asked, “What does it mean to be a good man”, and they replied that it means being “good”, as in being kind to people.
    So I pressed a bit more, cluing each of them in o the gender issue I was curious about. I clarified, “Is being a good man different than being a good woman?” They each looked at me like that was a stupid question. They said it doesn’t matter, being a good person is the same for men and women.

    Reply

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